On I-80 West yesterday bound for Des Moines—somewhere after the Iowa state line but before the real border, which is the looming, purple thunderhead you inevitably pass through on this road—NPR stations were getting harder and harder to find, badly outnumbered on the bottom of the FM dial by Christian shows.
I was listening with forced intensity, as I was drowsy and my first mate was sleeping. On “Talk of the Nation,” I heard an interview on the energy situation with the president-elect of the American Petroleum Institute. The fellow, who has also represented the mining industry and one other industry lobby whose altruistic aim I can’t recall, said more than once that what he thought we really need in this country is a “robust debate” about energy.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I have as strong a point of view about something as I imagine the oil industry has about wanting to drill more reserves in North America, what I’m looking for is not a “robust debate.”
Honey, I understand you want me to come along with you to Bed, Bath and Beyond, and that this trip will cause me to miss my tee time. I embrace this diversity of views, and I look forward to a robust debate.
I don’t know whether drilling offshore is a good idea. I’m not an environmentalist, a scientist, or an oil energy expert.
I do know that in general, people who call for debates and dialogues are looking to put the problem off (“we need a dialogue on education!”) while pretending to address it (“we need a dialogue on race in this country!”).
As for people who use the word “robust”—whether they’re referring to debates, coffee or marketing strategies—well, they’re bullshitters too.
Finally, the petroleum guy also said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts. It’s my experience—and I bet most sensible Iowans will agree with me on this one—that people who use this old saw happen to be liars.